Amanda Jolley’s career path as an accountant compelled her to search for greater meaning in life. After leaving corporate accounting in the mid 1990s, she began exploration in mixed media and found great satisfaction in collage whether on canvas, in her soldered jewelry, or in her altered books and art journals. Drawn to the depth and luminous characteristics of wax, her creative journey settled in and found home with encaustic painting. Since her introduction to the world of encaustic, she has been experimenting with form and texture, often incorporating her collage elements and origami structures into the wax. Amanda has a passion for sharing the healing properties of art with a distinct segment of the Kansas City population, exploited women, and spends much of her time planning projects to promote healing. She also teaches encaustic, soldering, and art journaling classes in the Kansas City area.
The Nitty Gritty
Today I call myself an artist. I am in love with encaustic painting and mixed media collage. Yet most of my adult life, it did not even register that I might be creative. No matter that I fully illustrated my stories in a 3-ring binder in the second grade, no matter that I would go down the office supply aisle at the Five & Dime Store just to feel the paper, or that I loved doing the crafts at school and loved playing the piano at home, and ballet and square dancing, singing and the flute. Doing these things brought me great joy. So where was the disconnect? Why was I unable to identify my true passions as I reached adulthood?
Leo: 12×12 encaustic collage
Looking back, I can see that I observed the perceived value of what I enjoyed through the eyes of my school and cultural experience. I grew up in a small town in western Kansas which gave me a proportionally small view of the world and its opportunities. In school, all the arts programs were viewed enriching but not vital. The emphasis was on sports and academics. While my family did nurture my love of music, dance and writing, I did not know anyone who made their living by their craft outside of being a teacher. Adding to my lack of role models was the pervasive message to women in the 1970-80s. “Women are as strong as men and should have professional careers like men.” Even the television sitcoms reinforced the message by showing “successful” women wearing business suits, having children, and balancing it all.
All of that muddied my thinking. As I thought seriously about my future, I felt the pride rise in my chest as I chose a career in which I could be quite successful. I chose a major in accounting, a career which would be important and lucrative in the eyes of my peers and community, one that would also “bring home the bacon.”
So years go by and I am an accountant. I quit playing the piano, quit dancing, quit writing. I am married with 2 kids working full time and my life just fell apart. I could not handle the stress that accompanied taking care of little ones and dealing with a climb-the-ladder career. I quit my job to save my sanity. What I lacked was the capacity to handle all that this successful life was pulling from me. I was tapped out with nothing left to give.
15-Love: 12×12 encaustic collage with beeswax infused origami
Several distinct events occurred after I left my career. God became very real to me, up-close and personal. I became friends with a very resourceful neighbor who is now also an artist. We decided to home educate our children because of my husband’s crazy work schedule. I started blogging. All of these events aligned me for my greatest discovery, the finding and cultivating of my true self.
Along my journey of growth and discovery, I came across a gem of a book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer. My favorite quote, “Whatever it is, surely art involves creativity and originality. Whatever form art takes, it gives outward expression to what otherwise would remain locked in the mind, unshared.” The book goes on to define “hidden art” as doing what is thoughtful, resourceful, inspiring every day to cultivate an environment of joy.
After practicing this hidden art for a time, I found greater and greater joy in creating. I fell in love with altered books, art journaling, soldering, but surprisingly, found myself in an internal battle. A remnant from my past was the value system I had inadvertently laid on art and myself. To justify my earlier career choice, I had lied to myself without even knowing. In the midst of creating, I would hear phrases like, this is a waste of my time, my stuff looks like crap, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m just trying to be something I’m not, what I create has no value. Were it not for the joy that I experienced in the process of creating, I’m sure I would have given up. The lies were stripped away one by one, and the truth was proved by time and experience. Joy prevailed.
Now I am an artist. My absolute favorite medium is encaustic. I so enjoy the luminosity, the smell and the direct tie to nature. The process of manipulating the wax to produce effects is satisfying to my soul. Now my encaustic paintings are regularly accepted into shows. I am sure this would not have happened if not for training by Patricia Seggebruch, my first encaustic instructor and great encourager of experimentation. My lack of formal training does not hinder me as I have found myself surrounded by a community of encaustic artists that are generous in sharing the skills they have learned.
Return to Joy #3: 6×6 encaustic collage
And I still practice hidden art, but have added to the definition. Hidden art is not only doing what is thoughtful, resourceful, and inspiring, but also simply being who God created me to be. This too cultivates an environment of joy. He’s hidden a beautiful work within each of us. When we are able to act like our true selves, His art comes to light.